Cooking

Trail Fix

You don't need to pitch a tent to eat packaged camping food
Photo: Tasting Table
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This June, join us as we defy the confines of the kitchen and look outside. If you need us, we'll be exploring the Great Outdoors.

Having food on the brain (naturally) during Great Outdoors month, we wondered if those packets of flaked food are actually better than just eating trail mix for eight days straight. So we raided the local REI and did a taste test of ready-to-eat camping meals—minus the actual living in tents part. It turns out that for many of these items, you don’t need to go camping to enjoy them. Because if you’re going to buy instant ramen, why not buy instant curry while you’re at it?

Karen’s Naturals Just Veggies: Eating fresh produce while you’re living the nomad life can be tricky. The first couple of days are great, but then the last of the cucumbers gets a bit too mushy, and is that mold or sock lint? The freeze-dried peas and corn in this mix are the best, as they’re easier to pop into your mouth than the pepper and tomato. But we tacitly agree that we’d eat these as a normal snack, and we have spent the past week sharing a bag around the office.

Mountain House Scrambled Eggs with Bacon: Even if three-dimensional eggs wouldn’t just go rotten, they probably wouldn’t last five minutes of being jostled around in your overstuffed pack. This took courage, but the just-add-water breakfast was actually OK, even if we chose it only because it was less frightening than dehydrated lasagna with meat sauce and the beef Stroganoff.

PROBAR Meal Bars: If you eat by volume, these are not the way to go. The dense but small protein bars do however provide as advertised double-digit percentages of all your necessary macronutrients. But if you can deal with eating a small square and calling it a meal, the peanut butter chocolate chip and acai-dark chocolate Superfood Slam are both delicious options. For added snacks, try the more manageable Bite line of bars.

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MaryJanesFarm Organic Bare Burrito: A burrito is basically already a little food sack, so I see no problem with buying it in a bag. A compostable one at that, meaning it fits in with the Leave No Trace credo. Pack hot sauce and tortillas, and you’ll easily feel like you could be in a small chain Tex-Mex restaurant. Just don’t eat the flakes while they’re still dehydrated, because that’s kind of gross. Trust me.

Backpacker’s Pantry Katmandu Curry: It’s a bit heavier than the other freeze-dried food sacks—granted, it still weighs less than if you grabbed a bowl of saag paneer from your favorite take-out place on your way to the woods. This vegan meal option is nothing if not filling, thanks to a whopping amount of fiber and protein. It’s also thankfully not too spicy, meaning it won’t leave you running for a glass of milk that doesn’t exist.

Gu: Casual runners might already be acquainted with the aptly named plasma, but it’s also good for those hikers who just can’t stop, won’t stop. You can even get a 15-serving-size pack, but I don’t recommend it—they get heavy, and you’re better off carrying something lighter.

Astronaut Ice Cream: If you don’t envision yourself surviving the wilderness without ice cream, freeze-dried dairy is the way to go. It makes me think of happy days in science museums, but I’m sure NASA’s finest have also had to endure a summer vacation roughing it in the great outdoors, so we say throw it in.

Other Snacks: Bearded Brothers’ chocolate-maca bar tastes like a brownie but is actually filled with good-for-you ingredients like chia seeds, nuts and dates. The Taos Mountain almond-agave bar is also a good choice, as are the athlete-made Picky Bars. They all taste like dessert but are designed to keep you alive. Say no more: You can find me in the woods.

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